Platinum producers Cool & Dre have laced beats for everyone from The Game (“Hate It Or Love It”) and Scarface (“Forget About Me”) to Lil Wayne (“Phone Home” from Tha Carter III). The Miami-based duo have just finished scoring Queen Latifah’s up-coming film, Just Wright as well as her first solo CD in ten years, Persona. In the coming months you can hear their work on Amerie’s In Love & War as well as projects from Lloyd, Birdman and Justin Timberlake.
I caught up with one half of the duo, Marcello “Cool” Valenzano to talk about getting Lil Wayne to rock out for Rebirth and how they’re getting DJs to stop leaking their records.
“…when you give Lil Wayne some beats, just forget about those beats. Take it off the block, it is no longer available…”
Nodfactor.com: It’s been ten years since Latifah has put out an album. What was it like working with her on Persona?
Cool: It was an incredible experience to work with a legend. She’s so talented with the singing and rapping. We started out at Dre’s crib and finished up over three weeks in L.A. Then another three weeks in Miami. Before we knew it we had a great body of work that we had confidence in. We were coming up with great concepts and they were coming out effortlessly.
Is that how you ended up scoring her movie?
Cool: [Yes] Through working with her she saw how musical we could get and she was like “why don’t’ you come in on this movie?” That was an honor for us. It’s fun and we wanted to execute it properly. We’ve done additional scoring on some independent films here and there but this is our first major film debut.
So what’s the status of Lil Wayne’s Rebirth?
The last news that I heard is that it was coming out right before Thanksgiving. We’ve cut a bunch of records with Wayne and we’re proud of the work we did. Wayne is creatively on another level. We brought these first few records to the table and he gave us the green light and said “keep feeding me” and every day we gave him a new record. We’d drop it off that night, he’d record it that night and he’d call us the next day and say “come listen to this.” You can’t do one or two records with Wayne and think you’re on the project. You have to give him hot record after hot record. When people started submitting songs for the album he’d play ours and say “You have to do something better than this.”
How did you go from doing a song like “Phone Home” from Tha Carter III to “Hot Revolver?”
That’s actually the first record that we cut, before he even thought of the title “Rebirth.” We had an idea and gave him the beat. He emailed it to us and he doesn’t normally do that. We did some edits to it, shortened it, cleaned it up and somehow the record got leaked. So we asked him not to send us any more records, we’ll jus go to the studio and hear them. It wasn’t intended to be a single but the Internet buzz was so big that iTunes was hitting up Universal and saying “we need this record, ya’ll are missing out on ringtone money right now because we don’t have it for sale.” So Universal mastered the leaked version of the record and it got on iTunes and went top 5. The Following week it was #15 on the Top 100. That particular record is what kicked it all off.
How do you feel about leaks in general as a producer? Is better security needed?
Cool: Me and Dre are investing $15K into security features. We just built a studio and had a major Hacker dude come in [laughs]. Gotta have a relationship with the major hacks and we’re putting some serious shit into the security. You’ve gotta invest in the security of your music because at the end of the day if something leaks early it can ruin a lot of shit. You can’t stop it, but you can slow it down. It has big time pros and cons. The pros are that if a label doesn’t believe in a record but you leak it to DJs and it starts to buzz, you force the label’s hand. With Usher’s “Yeah” it was leaked and it wasn’t on the label’s radar. It forced people’s hands but it went #1. One con is a record like “Hot Revolver” where the plans we had for it were spoiled and it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. So we send out links to our private servers and then you have to call us to get the password over the phone. I’ve had to close down several email accounts that have been compromised. We can’t afford to send shit to certain accounts anymore because of the leakage.
Coming from a DJ background I understand why they want it first. But also…Me and Dre called a DJ one time at his house. He was like “how you got my house number?” We found out he was putting out a mixtape with unreleased Wayne records and we had a long talk with him about how he’s hurting the game with that. We gave him a real scenario like: If you’re a new producer and you get a record on this project and the label is about to cut a check, the publishing companies are calling because you have four records on this next big project. Then BOOM, all four of your records get leaked on a mixtape and are on Youtube. Now the check the label was gonna cut they ain’t cutting no more, and now the publishing company is like “wait til you get some more records on another album.” That leak just cost you $300-400,000 dollars. You just ruined that whole shit for that person. When we explained it to him that way he was like “I’m taking ya’ll records off this mixtape and this one and this one…” If DJs understood the repercussions of it I think they’d think twice. Just call me up if you want something before it comes out.
Hate It Or Love it was such a big record and it’s crazy that the two people on it aren’t even speaking now. What was the story there?
We did that track in my mom’s garage and started chopping up the sample, but it was going in a totally different direction. Dre came in, turned on the MPC and heard it a little differently. Then we reworked the whole thing, gave it some more swing. We had that beat for almost a year and half before it got picked up. Our man Wayne Williams at Jive heard it and wanted to give it to Syleena Johnson. We sent it to him but she passed on the record. I don’t know who delivered it to Aftermath but supposedly it was 50’s record, and Dre said that’s a single. From that point the first time we heard it was on the radio. The record got leaked, that was antoher instance where leak helped out. By the time the album came out it was already at 2,000 spins. They were gonna come with “Dreams” first but “Hate it or love it” picked up.
A lot of people know you guys from Ja Rule’s “New York” but what was going on before then?
DJing was a big influence because it gave me a grasp of different genres. We used to do underground radio and we broke a lot of records out here, like Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy” and Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It.” That got us open on a lot of music. I would buy a whole lot of records and in ’96 we got our first piece of equipment. We had an R&B group, Basic Unity and we couldn’t’ find anyone to make us beats. So we got an ASR-10 keyboard and started putting down our own ideas. That was the birth of us producing and in 2000 we did two records for J.T. Money on Blood Sweat and Years and a Fat Joe record called “King Of New York” with Buju Banton. That was the birth of Cool N Dre.
You’ve started a site where people can submit their beats and demos, Rateyourdemo.com. What made you get into that?
Everytime me and Dre would go to these producer panels and conventions we’d get hit with a million demos and it was hard to keep track of all that stuff. So one day I came up with this concept where kids could upload their music. We’re always reviewing music and we can dissect shit. We’re lending our experience to help these kids make better tracks. We’re giving them pointer to help them make better records. We’re giving them comments their homeboy won’t give them. In return they make the changes and upload them to the site and we hear the growth. We’re flying two of the people down in a few weeks and bring them in the studio and record some stuff live. There is one singer on there that sounds like D’Angelo. Any opportunity we can offer through the site is a plus.
“Forgot About Me” was one of my favorite songs from Scarfaces’ Emeritus. How did you get Face on a track with Lil Wayne and Bun B?
Cool: What’s crazy is we had that sample for a while and we made one version of the beat and it just didn’t sound right. Then we ended up re-approaching it with this boom bap feel to it. We sent that beat to The Game before his last album and a few weeks before that we sent it to Wayne, but he never hit us back about it. We later learned that when you give Lil Wayne some beats, just forget about those beats. Take it off the block, it is no longer available . The way he is, you’ll give him 14 beats an he’ll record to all 14 and use them on Young Money album, Baby’s album, etc.. Unless you are there in person with Wayne and he says he’s not fuckin with it, that’s Wayne’s beat. So we gave him a bunch of beats on a CD and that beat was on there. We never heard anything back and gave it to Game and he calls us back saying this beat is crazy! At the same time we find out that Wayne was using it for Carter III. They were like it’s on the tracklisting, etc. Wayne loved it. So we were like “Fuck it, we gotta break Game the bad news.” I had to call Game and he was all upset about it, he was gonna make it a single, etc. But we let him know we’d make it up to him. We said we’ll give you something even hotter. That incident was the birth of “Big Dreams.” So Tha Carter III came out and it wasn’t even on there! Wayne ended up giving the record to Scarface, that’s how it ended up on Emeritus. Every record has a story.